Monday, May 31, 2010

May Movie Madness

Wouldn't you know it, the entire month of May has come and gone and I haven't written a single word about the movies I've seen. At least, not here in the ol’ blog. If you follow my adventures on Twitter, chances are you've seen my 140-character critiques in real-time. If not... well... you should, because even when I slack here, I'm on top of things there:

Now, let's take a quick look at the wealth of films I've seen to kick off the summer of 2010....

nightmareonelmstreet A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET -- Technically I saw this movie on April 30th, but, um, whatever. I wanted to write more about this debacle at the time, but I couldn't boil down my rage into a coherent paragraph. Suffice to say, it is a travesty that never should have happened. There's seriously no reason for it to exist. I mean, as bad as Rob Zombie's HALLOWEEN remakes are (and they are very bad indeed), at least he tried to do something different. This new NIGHTMARE is basically just a cheap rehash, completely stripped of the mystique and social commentary that made the original such a classic. It even uses the exact same imagery, but instead of being, y’know, scary, now it’s like, “Oh, here’s the scene where the knived hand appears in the bathtub, and here’s the scene where Freddy's form presses through the wall.” I will tip my cap to Jackie Earle Haley, who actually makes a decent Freddy, but he's no Robert Englund, and he had absolutely nothing to work with. Utterly pointless and worthless trash that needs to be swept under the rug and forgotten as quickly as possible.

human_centipede THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) –- I don’t want to say TOO much about this movie for a couple of reasons. First, the less you know, the better and more mind-boggling your viewing experience will be. And second, I don’t want to be responsible for you losing your lunch all over your keyboard. By far one of the craziest and flat-out GROSSEST movies ever made, it is all at once intense, harrowing, completely twisted and utterly ridiculous, featuring an unbelievable performance by the awesomely-named Dieter Laser, who helps raise the age-old question, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH GERMAN PEOPLE?!” An absolute must-see for anyone who prides themselves on being able to endure the most disturbing horror films. This movie was so freaking insane that it spurred me on a Netflix quest to watch the craziest, most disgusting and/or fucked up movies I can find -- so far, I’ve watched such films as I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, AUDITION and CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, and perhaps the best thing I can say about THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE is that it most certainly belongs in those ranks. Time will tell if we will ever see future “sequences,” as per the title’s implication -- I shudder at the very thought, but God help me, I know I won’t be able to turn away. (Oh, and also, after you see the movie, be sure to play the video game!

the-square THE SQUARE -- Fantastic slice of noir from Australia about the dangers of temptation and how the wrong decisions can lead to a downward spiral of devastation. Ray is married to Martha, but is having an affair with Carla, who is married to Greg, who has a big bag of dirty money hidden in their house. Carla decides to steal the money and burn down the house so she & Ray can run off together. Ray agrees, and naturally, things do not go according to plan. It's very dark and wildly entertaining, with lots of twists and turns and great performances. It's written, directed by and starring the Edgerton brothers (one of whom, bizarrely, plays young Uncle Owen in the STAR WARS prequels) -- when they are household names in a few years, remember that you read about them here first! (Also, when I saw the movie, it was preceded by SPIDER, a jaw-dropping short film that I highly recommend watching online here:

iron-man-2 IRON MAN 2 -- The first IRON MAN was one of the great comic book adaptations of all time, as Robert Downey, Jr. proved that he is, in fact, the man and Jon Favreau proved that he had his finger directly on the pulse of geekdom. All signs pointed to a kick-ass sequel... and kick ass, it most certainly does. I still think the original is the better movie, but #2 is a worthy sequel -- bigger, louder, crazier and fully loaded. Downey, Jr. is still the man, Mickey Rourke is an awesome villain, Don Cheadle fills in nicely and of course, my girl Scarlett is smoking hot as the tight-leather-clad Black Widow. Even Gwyneth has done her best work in years in these movies. I am certain that THE AVENGERS is going to kick serious ass in a couple of years (stay after the credits for another clue along those lines)... but I’d love to see a third IRON MAN to complete the trilogy, too!

pleasegive PLEASE GIVE -- This is one of those indie movies about jaded, unlikeable people (in this case, rich New Yorkers) who do unlikeable things (such as buying vintage furniture from dead people’s families on the cheap and then reselling it for a lot of money), and who go through a series of unlikeable events (affairs, family strife, stalking, etc.) and are maybe slightly less jaded at the end. That being said, it’s a fine film that is loaded with superb performances. Catherine Keener may be the single most typecast actress in history, but she plays that role so well that it hardly matters -- she’s good. Also, while I thought Rebecca Hall was great in VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA, my crush on her has now really taken hold -- she is truly outstanding, and I will be following her career with great interest from now on....

robinhood ROBIN HOOD -- Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe join forces once again to bring us yet another retelling of the classic tale, though this time, it’s more of a prequel that tells us how Robin of Locksley came to be known as Robin Hood. Unfortunately, that twist, and Scott’s big idea to intertwine the legend with historical fact, wasn’t enough to make this movie even remotely interesting. The runtime is over two and a half hours, but it feels more like six -- it’s unfathomably boring and all the actors seem like they’re just going through the motions. Even the great Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion can’t breathe any life into the proceedings. It also doesn’t help that everyone feels way too old for these roles. I’m also getting tired of seeing a Tolkien-esque epic battle at the end of every movie these days -- first ALICE IN WONDERLAND and now this! C’mon. Sorry, Ridley & Russell, but this time, I was most definitely NOT entertained.

babies BABIES – The epic tale of four seemingly-normal infants who live and grow and ultimately come together to fulfill their destines and fight the forces of evil! Um, no... that’s not it. It’s a documentary that traces the lives of four unremarkable human babies, from four very different cultures, from birth to their first steps, and ZOMG is it super-cute! Really... that’s all it is. No educational voiceovers, no facts and figures… just ninety minutes of pure, unadulterated baby cuteness. Although, I did pick up on some anti-American sentiment, which was mildly annoying. I mean, really, if you’re gonna make a movie about cute babies, just make a movie about cute babies and leave the commentary out of it!

gethimtothegreek GET HIM TO THE GREEK -- Hey, remember the Judd Apatow film FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, which introduced us to the crazy, womanizing, boozing, British rock star Aldous Snow? Well, someone got the idea to make an entire movie about his character and, I guess it was a good idea because the result is some pretty funny stuff. It’s probably about equal to FSM in terms of overall laughs (though, there is no single moment that is as good as Dracula: The Musical). Basically, if you like Russell Brand and Jonah Hill, you’ll probably get a kick out of it. P. Diddy also gives a surprisingly funny performance, and I really liked cutie Elisabeth Moss as Jonah’s girlfriend. (Speaking of Jonah Hill, um, it may be time for him to start following the Seth Rogen weight loss plan. Goddamn, he got huge!)

solitary-man SOLITARY MAN -- I’ve long been a Michael Douglas fan, but he hadn’t done much of anything in recent years... until now. This is a brilliant character study of a complete asshole. A former renowned car salesman who, after getting a scare from his doctor, decides to throw caution to the wind and embarks on a journey of infidelity and crooked business practices that leave his life in shambles. The film shows us what happens when he hits rock bottom, unable to stop his philandering, alienated from his family (which includes Susan Sarandon as his ex-wife and Pam Beasley herself, Jenna Fischer as his fed-up daughter), and forced to reevaluate his life. Tremendous film loaded with solid performances (including Jesse Eisenberg, again doing the Michael Cera thing better than Michael Cera, and the captivating Imogen Poots -- not to be confused with my friend Poot -- in a pivotal role). Definitely worth seeing as we await the return of Michael Douglas’s most memorable asshole character in the upcoming WALL STREET sequel! (Incidentally, this movie really reminded me of a movie from a few years ago called ROGER DODGER, which dealt with some similar themes -- would probably make a great double-feature -- even the posters are similar!)

micmacs MICMACS -- The first movie in five years from the great Jean-Pierre Jeunet, director of AMELIE (my #1 movie of the ‘00s, for those keeping track). The wackiest, most colorful and fun commentary against weapons manufacturing that I’m pretty sure I’ve ever seen, it’s about a guy named Bazil who gets shot in the head by a stray bullet, and whose father (we learn in a flashback) was killed by a landmine -- both of which were built by the same manufacturer. Alive but now homeless, Bazil befriends a ragtag group of misfits who help him exact revenge on the evil ones responsible for his plight. Featuring Jeunet’s trademark whimsy and starring some of his usual players (including the awesome Dominique Pinon), it feels like it could totally occur in the same Paris as that of Amelie Poulain, the very thought of which fills me with glee.

Thus ends the month of May. What will June bring? Well, we know that TOY STORY 3 is going to rule. Beyond that... we shall see!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ben's Super Happy Fun 2010 Summer Movie Preview

Holy crap in a pita, the summer movie season is almost here! In fact, it begins tomorrow, so this preview is just in time. Kind of a mixed bag of releases between now and the end of August... but there's still plenty of stuff to see, so I am excited. Shall we take a look at some of the highlights (and lowlights)? Yes, we shall.

ironman2IRON MAN 2 (May 7) -- Oh hell yes. The first one was one of the best comic book movies of all time, and this sequel looks even better. Robert Downey Jr. is the man, and now we've got Mickey Rourke as a crazy Russian super villain and Scarlett Johansson in a leather body suit thrown into the mix. I've already got my ticket for the IMAX experience tomorrow night!

BABIES (May 7) -- Zombie babies? Ninja babies? Muppet babies? No... just regular ol' human babies. Damn. Seriously, though, if you've been at the movies in recent weeks, and you've heard lots of squealing and "awww-ing" coming from adjacent theatres, it's likely that they just showed this trailer -- that's how goddamn cute it is. Can't wait for the sequel... KITTIES! Followed by the epic conclusion... PUPPIES! (And then, after a few years, a desperate, ill-advised fourth installment... SLUGS!)

THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS (May 7) -- Fully restored version of the landmark silent film, with 25 minutes of supposedly-lost footage that hasn't been seen since the film made its debut in 1927. Fritz Lang's classic directly influenced sci-fi as we know it, from STAR WARS to BLADE RUNNER to THE MATRIX, and I, for one, am looking forward to furthering my education.

BestWorst BEST WORST MOVIE (May 14) -- A documentary about the huge cult following behind the movie that is widely believed to be the worst of all time: TROLL 2. Granted, Tommy Wiseau and his legions of fans may have something to say about that... but still, if you've never seen TROLL 2, you are missing out, because it is truly awful and hilarious and awesome. (Though personally, I prefer the original TROLL, which holds a special place in my heart to this day.)

ROBIN HOOD (May 14) -- Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott join forces once again to bring us another take on the Robin Hood tale, which also stars Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion. Not sure the world was necessarily clamoring for another Robin Hood story, but hey, I'm all for it!

MACGRUBER (May 21) -- I saw this movie last week at a screening, and it is pretty damn funny -- actually one of the better SNL adaptations. If you like the skit, and you like stupid funny crap, you will like this. MACGRUBERRRR!

shrek4 SHREK FOREVER AFTER (May 21) -- They say that this will be the last Shrek film ever, beyond the shadow of a doubt. But after it inevitably (and inexplicably) makes another mint at the box office, will Dreamworks change their tune and beat this dead horse even more? God, let's hope not.

HOLY ROLLERS (May 21) -- I believe this movie stars Jesse Eisenberg (aka the poor man's Michael Cera) as a Hasidic Jew who gets caught up in a drug cartel. Undoubtedly, hijinks ensue!

SEX AND THE CITY 2 (May 27) -- I am not a Sex and the City fan by any means, but I have seen more of it in recent months than I ever thought I would, thanks to my girlfriend who often watches it in bed while drifting off to sleep. Oy. I will not see this movie, but still, here's hoping horse-face Carrie chooses good-guy Aidan over jackass Mr. Big once and for all! (Now if you'll excuse me, I must go find my missing testicles....)

PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME (May 28) -- I have never played this video game, so I have zero attachment to the source material, and the trailer looks like a lot of flash and little substance. Maybe I'll see it if I find myself jonesing for some mindless in-the-moment entertainment.

GET HIM TO THE GREEK (June 4) -- A psuedo-sequel to FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, in the sense that Russell Brand's Aldous Snow is the main character. Jonah Hill also stars, though, confusingly, he is apparently NOT playing the same Aldous Snow-obsessed geek from FSM. Should be funny nonetheless!

MARMADUKE (June 4) -- The horror... the horror.....

splice SPLICE (June 4) -- Looks like this will be a good year for movies about freaks of nature. First, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE, one of the most f'd-up movies I've ever seen... and now this one, starring Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley as rogue scientists who create... well, something nasty. Trailer sets a freaky tone, so we'll see what happens.

THE A-TEAM (June 11) -- I was never a big A-Team fan back in the day, but I appreciate its status in the pop culture pantheon. This movie remake does look pretty badass, thanks in no small part to Liam Neeson as the cigar-chomping Hannibal. Between this, messing around with uber-hot Amanda Seyfried in CHLOE, and chewing the scenery as Zeus in CLASH OF THE TITANS, Neeson has been nailing the awesome roles lately!

THE KARATE KID (June 11) -- Fuck this movie and everyone involved with it up the ass with an oversized pineapple. I'm a HUGE fan of the original KARATE KID (1 & 2, though even #3 has its charm), and this remake's very existence is, simply put, an abomination. Sorry, but Jackie Chan can't hold Pat Morita's chopsticks. In the long, sad history of unnecessary remakes, this may be the worst of them all.

toystory3 TOY STORY 3 (June 18) -- Without a doubt, the most anticipated movie of the summer. Seriously, the mere thought of seeing a new TOY STORY film in a month and a half fills me with unending joy. I have no doubt that this movie will be just as brilliant as the first two, if not more so, and Pixar's unparalleled reign of excellence will continue to infinity... and beyond!

JONAH HEX (June 18) -- Yet another adaptation of a comic book that I know absolutely nothing about. But the trailer looks pretty cool -- freaky deformed Josh Brolin, smoking hot Megan Fox, bat-shit crazy John Malkovich -- works for me!

grownups GROWN UPS (June 25) -- Adam Sandler. David Spade. Chris Rock. Rob Schneider. Uhhhh, Kevin James?? Sigh... if this movie had been made in 1997, it might have been the greatest movie ever... but now, it just makes me sad. God, I miss Chris Farley!

KNIGHT AND DAY (June 25) -- Listen, even though Tom Cruise is a fudgepacker who has Sea-Man on his back, he can still make a kick-ass movie when he wants to, and this one, starring Cruise in classic action/comedy mode as a secret agent who gets mixed up with a regular gal played by Cameron Diaz, looks like pretty solid summer entertainment!

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE (June 30) -- ZOMG! Will Bella finally hook up with Jacob or will her love for Edward conquer all?? Riiiight... I will not see this trash on the big screen, but I do look forward to watching it on Blu-Ray in a few months and having a good laugh!

THE LAST AIRBENDER (July 2) -- M. Night Shyamalan is back following the biggest disaster of his broken career. I have little faith that he will rediscover his past magic, even though for once, he's tackling pre-existing material instead of coming up with his own bullshit. But who knows. (Also, I hear the big twist at the end is that the characters are all, in fact, big blue aliens... cuz, y'know, the title of the TV show was AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER... ah, forget it.)

Cyrus CYRUS (July 9) -- Apparently 2010 is the year that "mumblecore" goes mainstream: First, Greta Gerwig hits the big-time with GREENBERG, and now, the Duplass brothers (THE PUFFY CHAIR and BAGHEAD) give us this dark comedy starring John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill in a twisted love triangle. Good stuff.

DESPICABLE ME (July 9) -- Steve Carell provides the voice of Gru, an oft-thwarted supervillain, in this animated comedy. The trailers are pretty amusing and appear to feature wacky, Looney Tunes-esque humor and cruelty to children. That's a can't-miss recipe!

PREDATORS (July 9) -- Hopefully this movie will bring some normalcy back to the Predator universe... and by that I mean, I hope it doesn't suck as much as the ALIEN vs. PREDATOR debacles. It's produced by Robert Rodriguez and stars Adrien Brody, Topher Grace and Laurence Fishburne, so that's a pretty good start!

inception INCEPTION (July 16) -- The latest from Christopher Nolan, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page, dealing with some kind of venture into people's dreams... it sounds crazy and trippy and awesome, which is to be expected from the guy who brought us MEMENTO, now that he has all that DARK KNIGHT money at his disposal. Cannot wait for this one.

THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE (July 16) -- My first instinct is to scoff at the existence of this movie, but then I remember that I felt the same way about PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN when I first heard about it. But those movies ruled, and Nic Cage is the man, so maybe -- just maybe -- this will be fun. Just don't fuck up the part with the brooms!

Dinner_for_schmucks DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (July 23) -- Pretty sweet alignment of comedy giants in this one from Jay Roach, director of AUSTIN POWERS. Paul Rudd plays a guy who participates in a contest in which he must invite the biggest idiot he can find to finner. Naturally, he picks Steve Carell... and from there, God only knows what kind of awesome quotable hijinks will ensue.

RAMONA AND BEEZUS (July 23) -- The only question is whether or not this movie adaptation of the classic Beverly Cleary books will be as good as the '80s TV show starring a young Sarah Polley as Ramona! Um, not that I ever watched that show... or read the books, for that matter. (BTW, still haven't found those testicles... sigh.)

SALT (July 23) -- I feel like this may be Angelina Jolie's last stand... I mean, is she even relevant anymore? She hasn't made a good movie in years, and in the hearts & loins of many a man (myself included), she's been replaced by a hotter, younger version of herself named Megan Fox. So this spy action thriller is probably her last chance to prove her worth. Time will tell whether or not she's up to the challenge... or if she should go back to adopting the rest of Africa's children.

lifeduringwartime LIFE DURING WARTIME (July 23) -- The latest from Todd Solondz. Apparently it is a pseudo-sequel to the monumentally fucked-up HAPPINESS, set 10 years later, featuring the same characters at different ages (not necessary 10 years older), played by different actors (including Ciaran Hinds, Charlotte Rampling, Ally Sheedy, Paul Reubens (!) and Shirley Henderson, aka Moaning Myrtle from the HARRY POTTER series). I am scared of this movie.

I LOVE YOU, PHILLIP MORRIS (July 30) -- The story of a guy (Jim Carrey) who gets into an accident, realizes that he is gay, decides to live life to the fullest, which includes becoming a con man, ends up in prison, meets the love of his life (Ewan McGregor), and then things get really crazy. Sounds pretty funny and not necessarily tragic & depressing like every other movie about gay people -- score one for social acceptance!

GET LOW (July 30) -- Not sure what it's about, but it stars Robert Duvall and Bill Murray. Need I say more?

THE OTHER GUYS (August 6) -- If Judd Apatow is the lord & master of comedy these days, then his right hand has to be Adam McKay, director of ANCHORMAN, the best & funniest comedy of the last decade. His latest stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as bumbling cops who get their big break -- yep, it's an Adam McKay buddy cop comedy, and I have complete faith that it will be another dose of hilarity that we'll be quoting for years to come.

expendables THE EXPENDABLES (August 13) -- Stallone. Statham. Rourke. Li. Lundgren. STONE COLD! Cameo appearances by Bruce Willis and Arnold f'ing Schwartzeneggar?! Whether or not this movie (written & directed by Sly, who promises a hard R rating) will actually be good remains to be seen... but either way, it will be the epitome of all that which is badass.

SCOTT PILGRIM vs. THE WORLD (August 13) -- By now, I am pretty much sick of Michael Cera's schtick... but I gotta admit, the premise of this graphic novel adaptation sounds right up my alley. Cera does his usual Cera thing, this time as a guy who, in order to win the hand of the girl of his dreams, must defeat her seven ex-boyfriends in battle, video game style. That rules... and did I mention that it's directed by Edgar Wright, the genius behind SHAUN OF THE DEAD? This will probably be awesome.

GOING THE DISTANCE (August 27) -- The plot of this movie sounds like a fairly basic, run-of-the-mill romantic comedy, but I just like the idea of Drew Barrymore in her first R-rated raunch-fest. Yep, I'm still crushing on Drew after all these years!

PIRHANA 3D (August 27) -- AVATAR, Schmavatar... here's a movie that understands the proper use of 3D technology! Which is to say that there will be lots of evil man-eating fish, splattering blood, Christopher Lloyd, and, of course... BOOBIES! I seriously can't think of a better way to cap off the summer.

So many movies to cram into a few short months that will surely fly by... but I think I am up to the task. Are you??